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Iridescent Announces Winners of the Gravity Design Challenge, Science Contest for Teens

Iridescent, a science and technology education non-profit, announced the winners today in the Gravity Design Challenge, an online science contest for teens, inspired by the Warner Bros. Pictures movie GRAVITY, starring Academy Award® winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. The winner received a family trip to New York City for the GRAVITY movie premiere tonight, and a chance to see the stars.

“With women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields earning more than 33 percent more than their counterparts in non-STEM fields, there should be ample incentive for girls to pursue these subjects. Yet, many young women are still under-performing in these areas. We need to get creative in our approaches because, often, we’re competing with cultural biases that tell girls science and tech are boys’ work,” said Tara Chklovski, founder and CEO of Iridescent. “Iridescent is excited about the opportunity to illuminate the power of STEM education for teens through powerful role models and through our hands-on learning programs that match students with experienced mentors.”

Iridescent hopes that thirteen-year-old Eiley Hartzell-Jordan from Carrboro, North Carolina, and her friends, will be inspired by Sandra Bullock’s character, Dr. Ryan White, an engineer in the film GRAVITY. Hartzell-Jordan was awarded first place in Gravity Design Challenge for her extraordinary entry. Based on a requirement to include three design elements: 1) a launcher, 2) a transfer mechanism, and 3) an orbit well, the open-ended design competition was no small feat for a 13-year-old to win. Throughout the competition Hartzell-Jordan received guidance from her Iridescent mentor, Bonnie Lei, a Harvard biology student. Mentorship is a key component of all of Iridescent’s STEM-learning programs.

Fourteen-year-old Austin Tyler from Long Beach, California placed second in the competition, while 16-year-old Christopher Zamora from Los Angeles received third place. The winning teens each spent more than ten hours of time on their creations, and demonstrated curiosity and persistence to try new approaches. All runners-up will receive four free tickets to experience GRAVITY in IMAX® 3D at their local IMAX theater.

The month-long Gravity Design Challenge was hosted on Iridescent’s online science and engineering platform - Curiosity Machine. The Curiosity Machine enables mentoring scientists and engineers to give customized feedback to children on their engineering design projects. More than 340 participants gathered at 14 family-science learning events around the country throughout the month to learn about gravity and aerospace engineering.

Iridescent is at the forefront of the STEM education movement, combining blended-learning technology tools with cutting edge, project-based science and engineering content. Volunteer mentors, including professional engineers from NASA, faculty and students at the University of Southern California (USC) provided feedback to Gravity Design Challenge participants through the submission period. A panel of experts from the astrophysics field judged the entries.

About Iridescent
Since 2006, Iridescent, has implemented a scalable model of science, technology and engineering exploration that has helped more than 22,000 underserved families through mentorship and hands-on family science programs. Iridescent’s mission is to use science, technology, engineering and math to develop persistent curiosity and to show that knowledge is empowering.

About Gravity
Academy Award® winners Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”) and George Clooney (“Syriana”) star in “Gravity,” a heart-pounding thriller that pulls you into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space. The film was directed by Oscar® nominee Alfonso Cuarón (“Children of Men”). Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) in command. But on a seemingly routine mission, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalski completely alone—tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth…and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space. “Gravity” was written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, and produced by Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman (the “Harry Potter” films). Chris deFaria, Nikki Penny and Stephen Jones served as executive producers. In theaters October 4, 2013.

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